Advertising

Pizza Cats – Lost in Translation or Just Lost; Editor’s Mea Culpa Revisions

Pizza_Cats2

Editor’s excuse: Let me be frank; mistakes were made. In my defense I think that the misunderstanding proves my main point — i.e., this Pizza Hut ad campaign is very much aimed at consumers in Japan. However, according to my Japanese authority whose credentials are that she grew up in Tokyo and is Japanese, the concept is based on a well-known Japanese idiom, “I’m so busy there are not enough hours in a day. I’d even ask a cat to lend me a hand.” Neko no te mo karetai. Of course, cats are notorious for not doing your bidding. You know the American saying: “Dogs have owners; cats have staff.” Another translation error is that “Pizza Boss” Tencho was born on a riverbank, not under a bridge, and he wasn’t adopted by a poor loving family, but is now part of a poor but loving family. My authority also advised me that as a rule, advertising marketing messages in Japan are less direct than in the U.S., and the Pizza Cat-o commercials are very well conceived, very funny, and everyone in Japan gets it. Below is the post as I first wrote it:

“Aim global, market local” is probably this Japanese Pizza Hut campaign’s takeaway lesson to ad creatives everywhere. Those of us outside of Japan find that not only is the text in a foreign language, so is the humor. Cats dressed in Pizza Hut uniforms are cute, but the link to pizza is baffling. The cats in the commercials were not given people-like traits nor were their movements animated with motion graphics. They just did catlike things, and mostly seemed bored and oblivious to being in a pizza kitchen.

The text in Japanese (as translated by a Tokyo friend) tries to offer more of a story line. Each cat is given a brief biography. Tencho, for instance, is described as the pizza boss. He was born in Tokyo under a bridge, and adopted into a family that had no money, but lots of love. When he walked by a Pizza Hut, he decided he wanted to work there, and now his dream has come true. Tencho’s wife is named Ponzu, and together they have five kittens. The overall message of these ads is that when people are too busy to cook, pizza cats are there to help. The ads have no tie-in with any single Pizza Hut location.

The Japanese culture is known for loving “all things cat” – e.g., Hello Kitty, the mouthless cat toy with a pink bow on her head, and Maneki Neko, the waving Good Fortune ceramic cat that is displayed in virtually every retail establishment. A few years back Calico cat cafes sprouted up around Tokyo, offering pet-less patrons the pleasure of sipping tea while enjoying time with a feline companion. News accounts say that cat cafes have about 20 cats of all breeds on “staff” and due to high public demand, reservations are recommended. Given such interest, linking pizza and cats seems a natural, but the series of 11 Pizza Cat commercials are puzzling, even for an American cat lover. It’s a reminder that there is a cultural aspect to advertising that can’t be ignored; what works in one country may seem odd in another.

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Aesthetic Bias Leads to Shameful Waste, Higher Prices, Poor Nutrition

Take my word for it, my farming credentials are impeccable. I’ve grown up around commercial fruit and vegetable farmers my entire life, and I know that the tasty, tree/vine-ripened, organically safe stuff rarely make it onto the supermarket shelf because retailers want their produce uniform in size, unblemished and picked firm and barely ripe so they won’t spoil before sold. As a result, mega-tons of fruits and vegetables are rejected for purely cosmetic reasons. Millions of people are suffering from malnutrition and billions of dollars of food are tossed out because they don’t rise to the aesthetic standards of clueless urbanites who believe that beauty trumps taste. What’s equally sad is that many city-dwellers don’t know how a real tree-ripened apricot, peach or cherry should taste. Shame!

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Schwartz’s Explosion of Flavors

How do you make herbs and spices tantalizing on a visual and auditory level? Asked by Schwartz Flavour Shots to create an ad that turned its seasonings into a complete sensory experience, Grey London unleashed Schwartz herbs and spices in an explosion of colors choreographed to a classical arrangement by M.J. Cole of Soho Music. Directed by Partizan’s Chris Cairns, the Schwartz Flavour Shots commercial used pyrotechnic designers to trigger 140 separate explosions of spices. Several sacks of black peppercorn, turmeric, cardamom, paprika, ginger, cumin seeds, chili and coriander were synchronized to blast off on cue to the notes and chords of Cole’s piano score. Filmed at Pinewood Studios in the UK, the commercial had to be shot in one take. The final result was an exciting visual feast.

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Guinness “Made of More” Brand Campaign

Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that lends itself to cliché ad images of ruddy-faced Dubliners drinking in pubs or a testosterone-infused sports bar with buff guys guzzling beer while gorgeous women with pearly white teeth, red lipstick and long perfectly coiffed hair laugh flirtatiously at their cleverness. What is totally unexpected in Guinness’s “Made of More” brand campaign is seeing nattily dressed men in the Republic of Congo going out on the town. Yet London ad agency AMV BBDO linked the Guinness ad series to a real group of dapper Congolese gentlemen, known in Central Africa as the Sapeurs – La SAPE or Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo. By day, the Sapeurs are ordinary workingmen – farmers, taxi drivers, laborers, and the like. But after work, they dress up in stylish and often colorful attire to express their own individuality and creativity. “Even if I don’t have money in my pocket, I only need to wear a suit and tie to feel really at ease,” said one. Despite living in an impoverished war-torn region, the Sapeurs abide by a code of honor that respects peace, self-dignity and politeness. They are role models in their community. They live by the beliefs expressed in 19th century poet William Henley’s Invictus — ”I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

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60-Second Sitcoms

An entertaining TV commercial is better than watching a 30-minute sitcom — and this ad for Adobe Marketing Cloud by Goodby Silverstein & Partners proves the point. The 60-second “Click, Baby, Click” spot shows how an innocent act can have reverberating disastrous effects in a broad range of markets and industries around the world — unless, of course, businesses protect themselves with the online services of Adobe. So many great commercials today are written like a comedy skit, reeling the viewer in and then delivering the marketing sell at the very end.

Brave New World for Cats

If cats were 13th century cartographers, this is probably how they would map out their known world. Or so it is suggested in this series of print ads for Whiskas pet food, created by AMV BBDO in the UK and illustrator Dave Hopkins. The vintage-style maps were drawn from a cat’s perspective, with feline significant names given to landmarks in the Living Room Plain, the Garden Outback and The Kitchen Valley. Ottoman Overlook, Settee Ridge and Magazine Mound are key features called out in the living room. Toaster Volcano, Sore Paw Crossing stove zone, and Shelf Highlands are marked in the kitchen, and in the garden, the area beyond the Great Wall is labeled “Here There Be Monsters” with two unfriendly dogs stationed nearby. The compost heap is named Pew Gardens. The sepia-toned maps are a delight to study, and they are presented with confidence that viewers are sophisticated enough to know the Whiskas brand and a fair amount about typical cat behavior. The only real branding in the ads is the Whiskas name in its familiar logotype set in a shield that vaguely looks like a silhouette of a cat’s head. The signature purple color of Whiskas packaging is completely absent.

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No Words Needed

Hermes is one of those “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” brands. Its silk scarves are coveted and collected as genuine works of art, the ultimate in elegance, refinement, and taste. Artists around the world are commissioned to produce unique designs for Hermes scarves. Each pattern is painstakingly engraved by Hermes artisans who typically take 750 hours to achieve Hermes’ nuanced colors and detailed design. Requiring an average of 27 ink colors, the image is silk-screened onto fine silk cloth. Although more than 2,000 Hermes scarf designs now exist, with 20 new designs issued each year, the look, classic and opulent, is decidedly Hermes. Dramatic colors and bold designs are the signature of the Hermes brand. Saying anything more would be redundant. This explains why the catalog and video ad for Hermes’ spring 2014 Soie Folle collection is without voiceover or marketing text.

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OPI: Made You Watch!

Oh, how marketing has changed since YouTube came into being in 2005. On the whole, online commercials are more entertaining and longer in length than the 30 and 60 second spots shown on television. This video for OPI fingernail polish titled “Instinct of Color” is like viewing a mini stage performance. Sensuous and mesmerizing, this video features a dance challenge between a beautiful thoroughbred named “Lady in Black” and four talented dancers – all to promote fingernail polish. Created by DAN Paris using music “Down the Road” by French DJ’s C2C, the 2 ½ minute video ad doesn’t display the actual OPI nail polish bottles until the end and mostly shows the best-selling colors in the OPI line on the hooves of the horse and the dancers’ apparel. The commercial is without voiceover or marketing spiel. You watch it for pure enjoyment. This is the push-pull difference between TV and Internet. TV ads push their message in front of viewers by ”barging” into hit TV shows. Online advertising videos have to pull viewers to their site by offering the promise of fun and amusement. They need to give viewers a reason to seek them out and tell their friends so their message will go viral.

Milton Glaser’s Groovy “Mad Men” Poster

To promote the seventh and final season of the “Mad Men” series, AMC asked the acclaimed Milton Glaser to design a poster that encapsulated the late 1960s. Set in a New York advertising agency, the popular TV drama spans the decade of the Sixties, beginning with the Eisenhower-Kennedy years when women wore bouffant hairdos and sweater sets with pearls and men wore grey flannel suits and hats, all the way through to the youth-obsessed counterculture era of mind-altering drugs, mini-skirts, bell-

Redefining Billboards

Less than a decade ago, a billboard was essentially a printed image blown up to a gargantuan size. The picture didn’t move, respond to what was happening in the environment around it, nor interact with passersby. How times have changed, and with it, the types of skills designers need to execute their ideas. Even printed pieces are not static anymore, what with the option of Augmented Reality movement and sound.

Stopp of Stockholm produced this subway billboard for a Swedish cosmetic line called Apolosophy by Apotek Hjärtat. Connecting ultra-sonic sensors to the billboard screen, Stopp made what appeared to be a “still photograph” of a young model come alive. Calibrated to react to arriving trains but not to passing passengers, the sensors made it look like the breeze from the passing trains were tousling the model’s hair. After the train went by, the model returned to her “still” repose. What a delightfully simple idea and brilliant use of technology.

Misfit Right In….Las Vegas-Style

The evocative typography and energetic soundtrack are what drew us into this 30-second TV spot for the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, but I don’t know what to make of the sales pitch for the hotel/spa. There’s nothing really risqué or particularly naughty about the imagery, but the message that flashes on screen is provocative. “Mutation is progress…Wrong has more fun…Correct is a mistake…Right is a trap…Fight right…Break some eggs… Wild is laid…Misfit right in….Just the right amount of wrong.”

Created by Fallon ad agency in Minneapolis, the commercial seems to validate the promise that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” According to Fallon’s website, “[Cosmopolitan’s] brief was ‘disruptive simplicity.’ And the desired outcome was, as always, to create something that would tickle the senses of the Curious Class and showcase the brand’s unique blend of attitude, wit and sophisticated.”

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Evil Zombie Snowmen No Match for Nissan Rogue

The weather was reportedly mild when TBWA Canada filmed this 2014 Nissan Rogue commercial in Toronto last fall, so it seems prescient that they so accurately recreated the monster blizzard that would assault the Northeast this winter. Who knows, maybe in the brutal whiteout conditions of the recent Polar Vortex, real zombie snowmen were angrily roaming about wreaking havoc. This 60-second spot, which plays like a trailer for a sci-fi thriller, was directed by Mark Zibert, with production by Sons and Daughters, post-production by The Mill, and TBWA executive creative direction by Allen Oke.

And the 2014 Super Bowl Winner Is…GoldieBlox

Unbeknownst to most sports fans was a completely different Super Bowl competition being played out on the sidelines. Sponsored by Intuit, maker of QuickBooks, TurboTax, Intuit and Quicken software, the contest drew 15,000 small business contenders who vied for the chance to win a free 30-second spot during the big game last weekend.

And the Intuit winner was GoldieBlox, a startup that offers construction toys strictly for little girls. A Kickstarter-funded project, GoldieBlox was founded by Debbie Sterling, a Stanford-graduate engineer who was disturbed to learn that 89% of all engineers in America were men. Taking a walk through a toy store, Sterling noted that the “blue aisle” was lined with construction toys and chemistry sets, while the “pink aisle” had lots of princesses and dolls. Sterling vowed to redecorate the “pink aisle” with construction toys to send little girls the message that they could pursue a career in science, engineering, technology ad math too. San Francisco-based Sterling developed an interactive storybook series with a companion construction kit. The book’s heroine is a girl named Goldie who likes to invent mechanical things and seeks the assistance of the young reader to build them using pieces from the project kit.

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Carlton – The Big Ad

Since the Super Bowl puts most sports fans in the mood for beer, we thought we’d bring back an old beer ad favorite — The Carlton Big Ad, created by George Patterson and Partners (Young & Rubicam) of Melbourne in 2005. An epic parody of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” battle sequence, the commercial, also filmed in New Zealand, shows men in maroon and yellow choir robes rushing and leaping across a sweeping rugged terrain, while resolutely singing new lyrics set to the medieval tune “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s cantata “Carmina Burana.” Although the commercial looks like it was made with a cast of thousands, it actually only used 350 people, with the crowd replication software, Massive, filling in the rest of the extras in post-production. “The Big Ad” went on to win numerous awards, and undoubtedly paid for its production costs and then some through the millions of times it has been viewed on the Internet.